The Chinese artist Shen Quan and his stay in Edo Japan: Sublime nature
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Shen Quan (Nanpin) visited Japan during the Edo Period (1603 to 1868). Hailing from China, Shen understood that Nagasaka was a window open to the outside world.
In 1731, Shen visited Japan for two years. During his stay, Shen would gain a following concerning his style of realist art that was embedded in China. Hence, long after leaving Nagasaki, he continued to inspire many future Japanese artists – even if they adopted different art forms.
The Met Museum reports, “In 1731 the Chinese painter Shen Nanpin came to Nagasaki, where he remained for two years. During this time, he taught Japanese students the traditional Chinese style of realist painting, resulting in the formation of the Nagasaki school. After Nanpin returned to China, many works in his style continued to be imported into Japan, and his influence on Japanese painting persisted into the late Edo period.”
Interestingly, Japanese bunjinga (literati painters) artists in the late Edo Period continued to admire the richness of Chinese high culture. Therefore, despite Japan being isolated, the rich legacy of Chinese high culture and philosophy in the pre-Edo period remained firmly rooted.
In his native China, Shen deeply admired Bian Jingzhao and Lu Ji. Thus Shen not only opened up his artistic world to selected Japanese artists during his time in Nagasaki: he also shed light on other Chinese artists who had inspired him. Therefore, Shen introduced Japanese people to an array of Chinese artistic ideas.
Artists including Katsushika Hokusai, Kishi Ganku, Maruyama Okyo, and So Shiseki appreciated the art of Shen.
The small window of Nagasaki enabled Chinese, Dutch, and Japanese artists to introduce new ideas to each other. Hence, Shen made his presence felt despite only staying for a few years in Japan.
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